©By Cheryl Bolen
The three most exclusive gentlemen’s clubs during the Regency — White’s, Brooks, and Boodle’s — were all located on the same street (St. James) in London’s west end, and all are still in existence today.
But don’t expect to see any signs out front.
Most members of these private establishments in the borough of Mayfair come from the upper echelons of society. Their male ancestors have likely held memberships since the clubs moved to St. James Street in the late 1700’s. When Prince Charles married Diana, he hosted his bachelor party at White’s. His son, Prince William, is also a member.
White’s, originally a chocolate shop in 1693, moved to 37-38 St. James in 1778. During the Regency it was strongly associated with Tories. Members could take their meals at the club, and they especially enjoyed the gambling, as well as White’s well-known betting book. The book recorded bets about battles during the Napoleonic wars and often included bets on prospective matrimonial partners. It was at the club’s famed bow window that Lord Alvanley bet a friend £3,000 (over $100,000 today) which of two raindrops would fall fastest.
Brook’s, founded in 1764 by a group of men which included four dukes, moved to 60 St. James in 1778. While many prominent men of the era held membership in both clubs, Brook’s was a bastion for Whig leaders such as Charles James Fox, the Duke of Portland and the Duke of Devonshire. The Prince Regent was a member. Like White’s, Brook’s also had a betting book. One of its most interesting entries is, “Ld Cholmondeley has given two guineas to Ld. Derby, to receive 500gs whenever his lordship f**** a woman in a balloon one thousand yards from earth.” Boodle’s is located directly across the street from Brook’s. Established in 1762, Boodle’s has also boasted many famous members, including Beau Brummel. More recently (relatively speaking), it was author Ian Fleming’s club. He bases James Bond’s club on Boodle’s.
One of the chief attractions to gentlemen’s clubs was the select gambling. Gentlemen of their class always paid their debts of honor.
“It was at the club’s famed bow window that Lord Alvanley bet a friend £3,000 (over $100,000 today) which of two raindrops would fall fastest.”
Is there a typo in the pounds-dollar conversion? Still, I can remember going to school in England when the dollar was a weakling next to the pound. I was as poor as a churchmouse!
I’m glad you find time to write these posts–they are so informative.
Not a typo! It’s conversion of pounds to dollars and then calculating in cost of living escalation over the years. (And I was in England once when the exchange was $2 = 1 pound. A stop at Burger KIng was $15, two Whopper Juniors and one small drink. Fortunately, since we were going to be there for 3 weeks, we got a flat with a kitchen.)
love all the information you give in these post. i am a history fanatic and love to learn anything new, 🙂
Thanks! I have often wondered about these clubs! This front view is gorgeous. Have any women snuck into these I wonder?
Reblogged this on silvatrend8553 and commented:
I just love these little historical tidbits.
I once wrote a English paper in high school about that period of time. It was the difference of how men where back then to the men in the 60’s to 1975. That was the year the paper was written. Woe what a flash back. I love to read about the 1700’s & 1800’s time period.
Really interesting, would love to visit it. Love old historical buildings
Only members are allowed inside. And no women!
Cheryl, I want to know the results of that Cholmondeley/Derby bet–a clear forerunner of the mile-high club.